Living Lebanon, loving Picasso: Tamara Khodr speaks on her art - GulfToday

Living Lebanon, loving Picasso: Tamara Khodr speaks on her art

Tamara Khodr 2

Abajour discusses Lebanese migration.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Mixed media artist and acrylic on canvas painter Tamara Khodr has been educated globally (University of Sunderland UK; Accademia Del Lusso, Milan; Fashion Collection Management, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; British International School of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) and has accumulated considerable experience in Dubai as a teacher (Dubai National School; Al Mawakeb School, Dubai). Her being at home in both the West and the East has impacted her art making: you will find undeniable influences of both the Occident and the Orient in her works. However, the main source of her artistic inspiration has been the stories of rebirth and past lives which are told and retold “in every home in Mount Lebanon.” A self-taught artist, her goal is to depict the feelings triggered by change and the emotions that create change. She lives in Dubai and her paintings have been exhibited in many prestigious spaces. Tamara Khodr speaks to Gulf Today

How has Lebanon affected your art?

Lebanon, my beautiful country, breathes creativity. However, unfortunately, life is quite difficult there. But through this difficulty, organic moments and alchemy are born. Lebanese people know how to turn ugliness into beauty. Perhaps a little too well sometimes! Like most Lebanese, I have experienced war, violence and revolution. Such experiences can push you in either direction. I chose expression.

Change is a constant in life. Why does it make you uncomfortable?

I believe everybody experiences some discomfort when undergoing change. In fact, I don’t believe true change/evolution comes without a little discomfit! That’s how you know it is working. I haven’t been a stranger to change through my own artistic journey: my art has changed and evolved from realistic figures to a cubist style. In this case, change can represent growth.

Tamara Khodr 1  Tamara Khodr is based in the UAE.

Who are the artists who have inspired you?

The main artist who inspires me is Pablo Picasso, the godfather of cubism. I’m especially drawn to his style of deconstruction of human figures and faces. Not only does this aspect of his art intrigue me, it also fits right into my own philosophies regarding rebirth. I don’t believe rebirth, social evolution or even change is possible without the deconstruction of what we know or what we have been taught.

You seem to like to paint tragic-comic figures. If it is so, why is it so?

Deep feelings, and the spectrum of human emotions, are what makes us who we are. I am merely painting these emotions on a canvas through the figures. These feelings range from happiness and joy to sadness and misery. Feelings such as sadness are often labelled as weak and are often suppressed. This is a stigma I try to redefine, because this particular emotion is attached to guilt. We feel guilty for feeling sadness. So, in fact the paradox is that I celebrate this emotion of sadness and all other emotions through my paintings.

The subjects you draw are part cartoonish, part pharaonic. Can you comment?

The figures are deconstructed, strange and quirky. These are the parts I enjoy most in people rather than the checklist of qualities constructed by society on success (wealth, beauty, etc.) The figures are unique, almost alien-like. But they have earthly experiences and navigate their feelings. I choose this representation so that people can relate. Everybody is unique and weird. Why should we be so concerned with fitting in rather than standing out?

Also, your characters seem like masked gladiators. If so, why is it so?

I always aimed to represent the invisible masks worn by people, including myself. The masks hide our authentic selves. We wear them to hide our truth. Many of us are unaware of the masks and others, with awareness, are learning to peel them off one at a time.

Are your subjects “emotional sphinxes”?

I don’t believe so. I think the emotions are very visible and raw. Some subjects endure what appears to be emotional crises for the world to see. The emotions are portrayed through the body language and more specifically, the eyes.

Your characters are imposing personalities doing simple work – picking lemons, sitting at breakfast … What is the message in the contrast?

Perhaps my favourite process of painting is portraying a bold contrast between real life scenarios and the eccentric figures! Underneath our skin there is so much more to us than the physical. We are a bundle of emotions, aspirations, thoughts, dreams and spirituality. Those who are aware can live every moment to its fullest, even in everyday tasks. Your truth doesn’t leave you, just because you are picking lemons or having breakfast. 

Your pictures are sweetly colourful. Why do you like colour?

Colours set me free, quite frankly. I spent most of my life battling heavy emotions and I just didn’t know what to do with my emotions. The first time I picked up a brush (I was 26, almost 27 years old), I felt a sudden relief. I brought colours and thus lightness into my life.

How much of an autobiography are your paintings?

I believe most of the paintings are a reflection of my subconscious mind. Many of the titles of my artworks emerge days after I’ve painted and channelled my subconscious thoughts though the art. For example, Distress was an outcome of the emotions that spilled after seeing the injustices and ongoing wars around the world. Perhaps I am in every painting, both subconsciously and consciously.

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